I have been following MLBTradeRumors (MLBTR) top 50 free agent predictions for the last several years. For the last several years, I have been keeping track of the FA signings, where they signed, and for how much. Last year, I stopped counting after 143.
For the Top 50:
- Signed before winter meetings – 10
- Signed at the winter meetings – 14
- Signed after the winter meetings and before year end – 23
- Signed in 2023 – 3
In addition there were 2 players who would have been in the top 50, but they were extended before the publication, and obviously signed before the winter meetings.
Overall for the 143 I included in my data base:
- Signed before winter meetings – 21
- Signed at the winter meetings – 24
- Signed after the winter meetings and before year end – 52
- Signed in 2023 – 46
Last year there were a lot of early signings. This year may be a little different (maybe not). But I suspect there will be multiple teams that will not sign any significant free agents until Shohei Ohtani is signed. I think that is also true for many of the free agents themselves.
I have this year’s list already loaded onto an Excel spreadsheet, and am ready to begin. What is taking the teams so long? They have had 2 days to sign someone, to get the party started!!!!
I have been reading a lot since the end of the season that leads fans to believe the AF is going hunting for elite pitchers, or at least top of the rotation pitchers. However, when reading the predictions from various publications, I get the impression that AF will sign Shohei Ohtani and little else.
MLBTR has four writers, but only three participated this year. One, Steve Adams, had some personal issues and did not provide his “guesses”. The other three, Tim Dierkes, Anthony Franco, and Darragh McDonald each came up with their predictions independently. Last year the writers’ successes were as follows:
- Steve Adams – 10 out of 50
- Tim Dierkes – 12 out of 50
- Anthony Franco – 7 out of 50
- Darragh McDonald – 8 out of 50
Before this week’s GM meetings, when asked how the Dodgers will approach SP, Andrew Friedman responded:
What was once a luxury is now an acute need. That means it’s “reasonable to say” the Dodgers’ aggressiveness in that market “will be more than what it has (been).”
So who do these uber prognosticators think the Dodgers will latch onto.
All three are predicting that Shohei Ohtani will sign with LAD. Other LAD predictions:
- Dierkes – Marcus Stroman and Jason Heyward
- Franco – Sonny Gray
- McDonald – Blake Snell and Sean Manaea
MLBTR did not include Clayton Kershaw in their list of Top 50.
I am not sure that MLBTR believes the Dodgers will be aggressive in the SP market.
Sports Illustrated was not any more aggressive in their predictions. They listed:
- Shohei Ohtani
- Jordan Montgomery
- Clayton Kershaw (SI included him)
- Jason Heyward
MLB.com had their writers polled on the top free agents and their predicted landing spot.
Ohtani was overwhelmingly the consensus pick to sign with LAD. None of the other top free agents were identified with LAD being the most likely team to sign them.
IMO, this leads me to believe that AF TRULY wants Shohei Ohtani. In a poll of 14 baseball GMs, the Dodgers were the overwhelming pick. One GM says that AF is obsessed with the idea of Shohei Ohtani with the Dodgers next year.
But then, nobody is comfortable predicting that the Dodgers will sign another elite FA pitcher after spending ½ billion for Ohtani.
The Dodgers current starting options on the current 40 man:
- Walker Buehler
- Bobby Miller
- Ryan Pepiot
- Emmet Sheehan
- Gavin Stone
- Michael Grove
- Landon Knack
- Nick Frasso
- River Ryan
- Kendall Williams
With that questionable staff, the Dodgers better score 1,100 runs.
Food for thought. How many more runs will Shohei generate over what JDM did this past year? JDM had 103 RBI and an .891 OPS. Shohei had a 1.066 OPS and 95 RBIs and a much less offensive team. But realistically, how many more runs?
With the loss of Kershaw, Urías, and Gonsolin, the pitching staff is even more suspect. Especially with the loss of Kershaw and his sparkling 2.46 ERA in 131.2 IP.
Ohtani will cost the Dodgers $1MM in international bonus money, their 2nd and their 5th highest picks in the draft. For LAD that would be the 2nd and 5th round. If they pick another free agent pitcher with a qualifying offer, they will then lose their third and 6th highest picks (3rd and 6th round).
Ohtani for $1MM international bonus dollars, and the 2nd and 5th round pick is a no-brainer. However, there is nothing in AF’s history of FA signing that would give credence to the belief he is willing to lose a 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th round pick. He might, but based on what evidence? Because many of you might be willing to lose 4 picks and $1MM international bonus money, that does not mean that AF is willing.
Thus, in my way of thinking, the Dodgers will pass on Snell, Gray, and Nola, and focus on Jordan Montgomery, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Shōta Imanaga.
I have waaaaayyy less insight and waaaaayyy less connections than the major publications, but I am preparing my MLBTR contest picks. I am nowhere close to finishing, but here are some of the picks I have started with.
- Shohei Ohtani – LAD
- Cody Bellinger – NYY
- Yoshinobu Yamamoto – NYM – Cohen will not be outbid, and Yamamoto wants the Big City stage, and no bigger baseball stage than NY.
- Blake Snell – Philadelphia (dark horse – Seattle. Loves his Seattle home, can never have enough pitching)
- Aaron Nola – St. Louis
- Jordan Montgomery – Texas (AF will be outbid by Chris Young)
- Matt Chapman – San Francisco (dark horse Arizona)
- Josh Hader – Texas, if Philadelphia signs Blake Snell. Otherwise Dave Dombrowski will not be outbid for Hader.
- Sonny Gray – Atlanta (Atlanta has already said they are increasing their payroll).
- Shōta Imanaga- NYY
- Eduardo Rodriguez – Detroit – I know he shunned the Dodgers last year, but I am convinced that the Dodgers were not willing to negotiate any additional money in a short window. We know AF likes Rodriguez, and he could come back to entertain Rodriguez. Rodriguez has said he has NO geographical preferences.
- Teoscar Hernandez – LAD’s RH hitting LF (I prefer Gurriel Jr., but LAD prefers the slug).
- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. – Seattle (much better bat to ball skills than Teoscar Hernandez)
- Jung-Hoo Lee – San Francisco (I know that Padres fans believe he is a no-brainer to them, but they are wrong)
- Marcus Stroman – Cubs (he has been clear that he wants to stay in Chicago)
- Jeimer Candelario – Toronto (need to replace Chapman)
- Lucas Giolito – Baltimore
- Jack Flaherty – LAD (AF can’t help himself and signs a 1 year reclamation project). He becomes a place holder for his other HS teammate, Max Fried in 2025.
- Rhys Hopkins – Colorado
- Jason Heyward – LAD
- Justin Turner – Cubs
Arizona will sign either Seth Lugo or Kyle Gibson as their #4 pitcher. Both are also a logical picks for San Francisco.
AF has to determine if his youngsters are better options than Lugo, Gibson, or Michael Wacha. My guess is that AF prefers his youngsters.
Hector Neris is a logical late inning possibility. While a longshot, I think they will also kick around the possibility of Jordan Hicks.
Luis Severino has had shoulder problems, TJ surgery and 4 oblique injuries. He is an injury waiting to happen. I cannot see the Dodgers offering 1 year at $14MM (MLBTR prediction). Maybe 1 year at $10MM.
I would not be at all surprised if JDM selected Miami. They have the pitching to contend. They have the $$$ now that Soler has moved on. He is from the area, and his Cuban roots will be most welcomed. His Fort Lauderdale home is 34 miles from Miami.
If the Dodgers do not sign Ohtani, all options will be available, including Jordan Montgomery and Yoshinobu Yamamoto together. If no Ohtani, JDM will be the LAD DH in 2024.
Ohtani does not move the biggest need the Dodgers have…Top of the rotation SP. Can they afford both Ohtani and elite SP. Maybe. Will they? Probably not. There is nothing in AF’s history that foretells that they are willing to do so.
IMO, Ohtani will be signed, and then most of the changes for 2024 will come via trade. I am working on some realistic trade possibilities. Bobby Witt Jr. and Luis Robert Jr. will not be on that list. But I have some other head scratchers that are more plausible (IMO), but are also very very very much of a longshot.